As the year begins with hope that COVID-19 vaccines will eventually lead to the reopening of Broadway, a major theater figure is testing out ways to get live shows up and running again.
NY1's Frank DiLella spoke to the people behind a new production of the Disney musical "Frozen" that is hoping to become a blueprint for the reopening of the city's theater industry.
"Anyone who's read history knows so many calamities have had arrested our business — the notion of a troupe of players telling a story. But it can't kill it," says Disney Theatrical Productions President Tom Schumacher.
Last month, Schumacher attempted a major step towards reviving theater around the world when he began mounting a new production of "Frozen" at the Capitol Theater in Sydney, Australia.
The success or failure of this production would have major implications for theater here in New York because, besides from being the producer of such shows as "The Lion King" and "Aladdin," Schumacher is also the immediate past chairman of the Board of the Broadway League — the national trade organization for the Broadway theatre industry — and as such he has been the person leading the charge to save our stages.
"My guess is that by getting Sydney open we'll then be able to get parts of Europe open in the spring, and then we can get Broadway back going again," Schumacher said. "And I think a year from now we're going to see this very differently. But we have to get something up and running and properly running."
On Halloween of last year, Schumacher began the nearly two-day journey to Sydney. After 14 days of military supervised quarantine and a tech rehearsal process, his production successfully began performances at 85% capacity.
I'm thrilled to report that they've been able to do so while keeping everyone in the cast, crew, and audience healthy.
"I think everybody teared up when the first invited audience came in, because you don't know what they're going to act like. And all of us just felt this release. There's a moment that, you know, in the show — 'cause you've seen it so many times — when Ana sings, 'Open up the gates and let people in,' and the metaphor of that, you could feel it in the whole house; the lights build and people run in and flock a space. I think you could just feel this collective goosebump in the audience," Schumacher said.
"It's thrilling because I feel like I'm in the future, right?" he continued. "I'm a day ahead of you, but I feel like I'm six months ahead of you or I'm eight months ahead of you where I can see what this is going to be like, I can see what the protocols are going to be. I can see how we work together. I can see what it's like to feel safe. We have to do it. We have to get everyone back to work and we have to get them back to work safely, and we have to do it when an audience is going to come. And that's what's happening here."